For whatever reason, The Oregon Trail in its many, many different incarnations, whether that be on the Apple II or one of the later versions like the library of Wii games, is a game that American gamers just can’t seem to stop playing. Whether it’s because it’s a simple management of resources, a balanced system of risk and reward or perhaps it just really is a good game; it could always be because the teachers wouldn’t yell at you for playing it at school, so your young self really thought you were getting away with something.
While the Wii Oregon Trail is not quite the same game that we all played over the last 40 years — personally, I only had my hands on it sixteen years ago when I was in first grade — it is still a game that is bound to educate the younger generation while still having the same element of nostalgia to rope the rest of us into the idea. Just like the umpteen versions that game before it, Oregon Trail Wii has treacherous dangers, with wild animals, dysentery, cholera and rough terrain to contend with.
The actual gameplay is basically a group of mini-games. As you travel down the 2,000 mile road of disasters, you must balance speed to minimize injury; if you go too quickly, you will injure a family member or break your wagon, but going to slowly forces you to fall behind and contend with the cold winter. You can pick berries if your food is low, which has you play a Whack-A-Mole-esque mini-game, or you can play the hunting mini-game that has you destroying cute rabbits and making your queasy stomach long for some berries. All the mini-games have levels, so every so often you will see an increase in difficulty.
There are still simple and fun elements of resource management. Whatever occupation your character is will determine how well you are at maintaining certain resources, such as how long a certain quantity of food will hold up and whether the wagon will fall apart more easily. You can pick your path and purchase equipment in the town shops to try and make your journey as smooth as possible, adding some upgrade elements and an overall strategic look on the game.
Just like the DSiWare and iPhone incarnations before it, the Wii version of The Oregon Trail has certainly carried over, carrying a bit of a cheery outlook to what is actually a pretty dark game when you boil it down to the basics. Just like the previous versions, there are still quite a bit of load times, and it can pop up just about anywhere, though they are shorter due to being able to use the Wii hardware.
Overall, the game still holds up great 40 years later, which is a great feat considering how quickly most other games get old when you constantly repeat them.